A new report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has castigated Great Britain for increase in hate speech and racist violence, and has kindly offered 23 recommendations to the British Government, including restrictions on freedom of the press in line with the Leveson Inquiry and creation of more hate crime offences in criminal law. But donâ€™t read the report just for its recommendations; read it for sociological insight:
ECRI considers that, in light of the fact that Muslims are increasingly under the spotlight as a result of recent ISIS-related terrorist acts around the world, fuelling prejudice against Muslims shows a reckless disregard, not only for the dignity of the great majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom, but also for their safety.
In this context, it draws attention to a recent study by Teeside University suggesting that where the media stress the Muslim background of perpetrators of terrorist acts, and devote significant coverage to it, the violent backlash against Muslims is likely to be greater than in cases where the perpetratorsâ€™ motivation is downplayed or rejected in favour of alternative explanations.
To summarise and translate: Reporting that a terrorist was a Muslim fuels prejudice against Muslims, so donâ€™t.
Hence the increasing numbers of media outlets, which report on violent and/terrorist incidents where the perpetrators are of an unknown identity and act with uncertain motives, probably out of mental illness or marginalisation. This is news reporting as national therapy.
ECRI is also concerned that the governmentâ€™s counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation strategies stereotype and stigmatise Muslims. I kid you not:
ECRI notes that the integration of Muslims has been called into question in recent times. The popular reaction is to associate all Muslims with extremism and terrorism. As observed previously, this has led to a large increase in hate speech and violence against Muslims. Added to this are a number of policies which may have the effect of further stereotyping Muslims, albeit indirectly. One of these is the Prevent Strategy, which is part of the United Kingdom Governmentâ€™s counter-terrorism strategy.
The Commissionâ€™s solution:
ECRI is concerned that all this has created a feeling of anxiety and insecurity within Muslim communities. ECRI considers that it may also lead to increasing marginalisation and alienation of Muslims by the majority population. It recalls the recommendation it made in its fourth report to pursue and strengthen dialogue with representatives of Muslims on the causes of Islamophobia, emphasising the need for an overall strategy against it.
In summary, when a Muslim commits a terrorist act, this should not be reported lest it generates a backlash against Muslims. Attempts to combat radicalisation in the Islamic communities should be avoided because they stereotype Muslims and make them feel bad about themselves. Instead we should talk to them how to fight our Islamophobia.
ECRI, of course, is not a law enforcement or counter-terrorism body, so they could be forgiven for not giving shit about the actual terrorism, violence, radicalisation and non-integration, i.e. the whole context of the debate. Itâ€™s not in their remit â€“ though intolerance of Islamists against the society in which they live is not mentioned in the report. Like racism, intolerance must be one of those white things. So ECRIÂ could be forgiven. But they shouldnâ€™t. In real life you canâ€™t pretend that problems donâ€™t exist, and if they do we shouldnâ€™t talk about them. If you paint over half the picture and then try to address the other half you are engaging in magic thinking.
Many on the left were ridiculed for their post-September 11 knee-jerk reaction â€œwhy do they hate us?â€ ECRI goes one better and one further: â€œthey don’t and shut up anyway; letâ€™s ask instead why do we hate them and whatÂ we can do to stop?â€
The more you read the less you are surprised by the Brexit.